An Expert Committee (Chair: Mr. Shyam Benegal) constituted to recommend guidelines for certification of films by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) submitted its report in April 2016.27 The Committee was created on January 1, 2016 by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Key recommendations of the Committee include:
Role of CBFC: The Committee observed that an owner of a film has complete rights over it. Any alteration or change in the film can only be made by the owner or with his consent. It recommended that the current system of suggesting modifications and amendments to a film by the CBFC should be done away with and the Board must function only as a film certification body.
Modification to 1991 guidelines: Guidelines were issued in 1991 under section 5B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Section 5B states that a film will not be certified if a part of it or the entire film is against the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, decency or morality, etc. The Committee noted that some of the objectives under these guidelines, such as requiring the film to be sensitive to the values of the society, providing clean and healthy entertainment, were not within the ambit of the CBFC.
In this regard, the Committee has drafted a new set of guidelines. The objective of the guidelines is: (i) artistic expression and creative freedom of filmmakers be protected through parameters that are objective, (ii) audiences are empowered to make informed viewing decisions; (iii) the process of certification is responsive to social change.
The guidelines also state that an applicant must mention in his application, (i) the category of certification he seeks, and (ii) the target audience. Further, any cuts in a film can only be made by the applicant, depending on the certification he needs for his film.
Separate rating for films with explicit scenes: The Committee noted that there was a need to extend the present four categories of certification to include an A-C (films suitable for adults only, with caution) category, for films that may contain explicit material such as nudity, violence, etc.
Udta Punjab Row
The Bombay High Court ordered the Censor board to clear Udta Punjab with just one cut and issue a fresh certificate to the movie. Refusing to stay the release of the film, as demanded by the board, the court directed the makers of the film to delete the urination scene and asked for a revised disclaimer. The movie was released on 17th of June.
The board had proposed to cut 89 scenes in the movie which almost made 30 minutes of running time.
The court observed that the CBFC does not have power to censor films but only certify films.